Take a moment to consider what it means to you to empower your choices. My own experience (and probably that of many people), is that I do not generally empower my decisions. Before we go further, let's set out a working definition for empowering our decisions.
If someone told you to really empower your decision, what would you do?
Here's the definition I use:
Empowering your choices means really considering all of the consequences (and benefits) of your options, and choosing from that place.
See, when we empower our decision, it takes away the burden associated with those consequences. We take on the consequences, because we have empowered the choice we've made. We've looked at what it would mean to have chosen differently, and decided that, in spite of those consequences, this is indeed the correct choice.
Many young university students make this decision at the start of their academic career (and even more do not). They choose to go to school and have less money than they might otherwise, in exchange for the benefit of having greater earning capacity when they graduate.
The myriad of ways in which I disempower myself have sat firmly in my blindspot for the better part of my adult life. For the longest time, I have taken on many different projects. I would tell myself that I was doing it because I wanted to spread my opportunities broadly, cast my net wide, and say yes to as much as possible. I wanted to take on board a lot, so that I could be truly great.
With reflection and good coaching, I've come to see that the way this serves me is that it allows me to avoid what I perceive is the inevitable failure of any one project I'll take on. I have a perpetual story that I am mere moments away from failure on anything that I am working on.
Now, on the outside, you would never know that. I am a master of hiding all of that vulnerability from you. My own wife didn't even know that these interpretations were constantly battling within me.
I became aware sometime last year that I had developed a pattern of bingeing and purging on having fun. I would disregard any sense of self-control, throw aside any responsibilities, act out of integrity and have a wild night or day (the bingeing). Then, I would feel disempowered, and assert tremendous control to stop that from happening again (the purging). In seeking support from my coach on this matter, I gradually became aware of the fact that this was ultimately about me not empowering my choices.
When I choose to take on 101 different projects, it leaves no room for fun or spontaneity. There is no access to possibility or the unknown, because I've got so many things pulling at me, I can't even keep a clear head (notwithstanding that I have exceptional organizational prowess, coming from my background in project management).
I would finish a binge period and be frustrated with myself. "Again, really?!" I would ask myself. Maybe if I just asserted even more control, I thought.
What I never realized was that this is actually a consequence of the pattern of being I have set up in my life. Take on a million responsibilities, do fantastic in them, reach a point of exhaustion and frustration, and then blow up like a party volcano.
So now, I get the option - empower my decisions. Yes, I can accept that new project and add another item to my already impressive resume of accomplishments. But, in doing so, I also accept the consequences - that I will have to say no to offers from friends to get together. That I might end up feeling lonely because I don't have the opportunity to connect with people outside of those projects. I might get frustrated. I might look to substance abuse as a way of creating a sense of freedom.
Powerful leaders empower all of their choices. They consider the benefits and consequences of each option, and then choose. If things aren't working out, they assess what is missing, and choose accordingly.
As you can see, there is no playing the victim here. There is nothing being "done" to us - rather, we take ownership of it all, and are always at cause.
Until next week, have a look at where you currently making disempowered choices. Here are some places to look:
- Romantic Relationship(s)
- Friends/Social life